Commonwealth of Virginia

Office of Governor Bob McDonnell

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 5, 2013

Contact: Jeff Caldwell

Phone: (804) 225-4260

Email: Jeff.Caldwell@Governor.Virginia.Gov

DJJ High Schools Consolidated to Become Newly Named Yvonne B. Miller High School

RICHMOND –  In an effort to help streamline academic record-keeping as well as create a fuller sense of unity among residents housed at the Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) juvenile correctional centers (JCCs), Governor Bob McDonnell has announced that the high schools on each JCC campus will be consolidated into a single high school to be named in honor of the late Senator Yvonne B. Miller, a career educator and the first African American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate.

“Senator Miller was always in the forefront of the fight to make Virginia a better place for children to learn and live,” said Governor McDonnell.  “Naming this school in her honor will serve as a lasting reminder of Senator Miller’s commitment and dedication to educating all youth, regardless of their circumstances.”

Senator Kenny Alexander said, “Yvonne Miller spent her lifetime fighting for education and for the constituents she represented. She firmly believed in giving everyone the opportunity to succeed. The newly named Yvonne B. Miller High School is an excellent tribute to Senator Miller and an ongoing reminder of her life’s work.”

Senator Miller’s brother James Bond said, “My sister had tremendous energy, and for many years she focused on giving others the educational opportunities they needed to succeed. She cared deeply about the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Yvonne gave them a voice as their tireless advocate in Richmond. For a woman who made so many ‘firsts,’ this school named in her memory will be a fitting reminder of her life of service.”

“The consolidation of the three high schools into one school builds on DJJ’s continued efforts to be more efficient and effective,” noted Marla Graff Decker, Secretary of Public Safety.  “The result will be a much more accurate representation of the achievement of our residents as a single group.  It will also bring a readily identifiable name to the high school attended by any DJJ resident regardless of their assigned campus.  This unified high school will stand as a lasting tribute to Senator Miller, a woman who believed in education and fought to ensure that all children have access to the fundamentals that will help them to succeed as adults.” 

The three campuses of Miller High School will be referred to as follows:

Beaumont JCC:  Yvonne B. Miller High School, Beaumont Campus. 

Bon Air JCC:  Yvonne B. Miller High School, Bon Air Campus.

Culpeper JCC:  Yvonne B. Miller High School, Culpeper Campus.

The school is the first in Virginia to be named for Senator Miller, a history-maker and a trailblazer who served as a strong voice and passionate advocate for the disadvantaged and children. She was a lifelong educator who was the first African American woman to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1984.  In 1988, she began her service in the Virginia Senate, and in 1996 became the first woman to chair a Senate committee. 

Senator Miller attended what would become Norfolk State University for two years and earned her bachelor’s degree from what would become Virginia State University, a master’s degree at Columbia University and a Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh before becoming a faculty member at Norfolk State, where she become a professor and chairman of the Department of Early Childhood/Elementary Education.

In addition to her many pivotal roles in the General Assembly, Senator Miller chaired the Commission on Youth, and throughout her career, she was dedicated to educating children and ensuring that all of Virginia’s young people benefitted from a strong education. 

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Yvonne Miller sought office for all the right reasons

By Roger Chesley
The Virginian-Pilot
© 

 When I first met Yvonne Miller, during an unremarkable formal dinner a decade or so ago, she didn’t introduce herself as a state senator. I didn’t recognize her face. And at the time, I didn’t know all of the Hampton Roads members in the General Assembly.

Miller was warm and engaging – without being nosy. We exchanged small talk, mostly about the speakers’ comments. I believe my silver-haired tablemate mentioned being an educator.

It wasn’t until the end of the evening, when a passer-by greeted her, that Miller’s elective cover was blown.

I doubt that most politicians would’ve dined in such anonymity, especially if they’d owned so many “firsts.” Guess the Norfolk Democrat saved her thunder for the halls of the state Capitol, where she began her legislative stint in 1984. She also had a 43-year career in Norfolk public schools and at Norfolk State University.

Miller died Tuesday after a 1-1/2-year battle with stomach cancer. She would’ve turned 78 on Independence Day.

But even during the past few months, she’d kept up a busy schedule. Miller participated in this year’s regular and special legislative sessions, continuing her fight for those at the bottom of the economic and social ladder. As recently as April, she appeared on a city of Chesapeake public affairs show.

When Del. Kenneth Alexander announced her absence at a voter education forum in Norfolk last week, there was no hint of how ill she’d become.

By now, you likely know all the superlatives attached to Miller – the first black woman elected to the House of Delegates and the state Senate, the first black woman to chair a Senate committee, the longest-serving woman in the Senate, and third in seniority.

It probably was lonely for Miller in those early years – even unwelcoming. She broke barriers of race and gender in a state where progress on those issues remains achingly slow.

Still, Miller carved out an agenda that focused on those who didn’t have high-priced lobbyists to buttonhole lawmakers.

“I think of her as being the voice of individuals who couldn’t speak for themselves,” Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, told me.

Miller championed education, free clinics, Medicaid and “anything to help the poor to uplift themselves,” Locke added.

Miller didn’t have a long list of key legislative victories. That’s partly due to when her party was in power, partly to the issues she championed. They weren’t popular with many colleagues.

Year after year, she tried to make it easier for released felons to regain voting and other civil rights by amending the state Constitution. “There are people who are 70 years old, have come out of prison, raised a family, been successful – and they can’t get their rights to vote back,” Miller told me in 2010.

Bills often passed the Senate but stalled in the House.

She would get especially angry when she felt that minorities and the poor were singled out for harsh treatment. She fought payday loans and efforts to require recipients of public aid to take drug tests.

Now that she’s gone, who will take on that duty?

Who will demonstrate that compassion?

Every legislator should.
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